Here’s a picture of a good friend of mine.
I knew Rose shortly after she was born. She came in this dress to my wedding, staged right here in 1987.
Rose came to my wedding with her parents. The photo at left isn’t mine, but it’s funny how things really don’t change much in the mountains. The view is the same. Longs Peak in the distance is the same, it’s looked like that for millennia. The green valley is the same. It’s a lovely place for a ceremony.
This is how Rose looked last Saturday.
Rose was married in Victoria’s Garden, in Marshdale, Colorado. She was a simply gorgeous bride, surrounded with lovely friends and a loving family. I was sitting with my sister facing the groom, and when she marched up to him, I could see him mouth “You’re beautiful” to her as they clasped hands.
It was at that moment that things came flooding back to me. You see, Rose was married at The Meadows at Marshdale, an events center that my mother planned years ago. My sister manages it now, and dozens of happy brides move through there every year.
Victoria’s Garden is at the bottom of a lovely descending terrace, and the first wedding ever held there was mine.
(My mother wasn’t overtly sentimental. I still chuckle at her naming that part of the facility after me.)
As I sat in the audience last Saturday, part of me was transported back to that day. I felt especially princessy, my flower girls were adorable, and my friends looked lovely in their dresses. Chris was my handsome prince, and we were going to change the world together. Rose was bounced on her daddy’s lap, and hundreds of friends gathered to welcome us to this new chapter in our lives.
Ever find yourself in a situation where things are so new, you just simply don’t know what to do? Rose was lovely. Her mother, who I graduated with, looked like she came from a photoshoot. Her dad, Italian and sentimental, had tears streaming down his face.
My dad, so agile 27 years ago, was frail in a chair next to me. My sister and brother, managing their families, gathered around with the other guests.
I sat, feeling mountain air around me instead of the sturdy arm of Chris. I can just imagine what he would have done. He’d be fighting back tears, and eventually I’d poke him, give him a tissue and tell him to wipe his face. He’d poke me back for calling him out. He’d laugh, take the tissue, and loudly blow his nose. He always cried at weddings.
After the Rose’s wedding, we went over to the reception area and I socialized with guests, many of whom had been at my wedding. I could see some of my women friends catch themselves.
“Victoria, wasn’t that precious? It so reminded me of yours!”
You know what, Visitors? It did. It was reminiscent of mine. Rose was gorgeous, she and her groom are madly in love, hundreds of people wished them well. It was just like mine, and it was fine.
It was a weighty thing, feeling the pull of grief, and the happiness of the future. I had to leave before the dancing started, I had had enough. It was truly a joyous thing, and Rose was a doll to include me. But weddings are so overtly for couples, and there was a point where I had to go.
My brother, John Newkirk, is the best a girl could have. He saw me to the door, and when tears threatened, he put his arm around me gave me a hug. He walked me to the side door, and I went home, happy for Rose and unexpectedly peaceful.
Time passing is a funny thing, Visitors. For some of you, your grief and loss is still fresh, and the idea of going to a wedding with friends is out of the question. It’ll pass. I promise.
It’ll be hard, but you’re no different than me. You can do this, you can find it your heart to go and celebrate at a wedding, and maybe even go home peaceful.
For all the rest of you, here’s a preview-
The Lierheimer Oscar Shot! Visiting Christopher in Southern LA!
(My girls have been teaching me about “Flash Fiction” or stories of extreme brevity, usually 1000 words or less. Here we go.)
In another life, Louisa had been a falconer. Now, as leader of the village, falconry was a collaborative effort, left largely to the young and energetic. Still, from time to time, Louisa would canter out to the village green with Desmond, her favorite peregrine on her leather glove. Desmond was an unusually good hunter, and the pair would often return with several rabbits in her game bag.
Today was a beautiful day for a hunt. Louisa rubbed her hand over her neck and cheek, feeling the ropy scars of past battles. No matter, pretty faces were for silly women, she thought as she cantered off.
Louise loved the feel of the wind in her dreadlocks, and the creak of the leather saddle as her horse picked up speed. Desmond took wing, and Louisa could look up and see him keeping pace above. They cantered through the forest and toward the field, and suddenly, Desmond streaked to the ground.
“A catch? So soon? Let’s see! ” Louisa brought a tidbit of dried meat out of her bag and whistled. Desmond rose from the deep grass, dragging a meaty rabbit in his angular claws. Louisa stopped to appreciate the spare beauty of the bird. He had broken the rabbit’s neck cleanly and quickly.
“Brilliant! “Louisa whooped. Desmond dropped the rabbit and Louisa nabbed it mid air. Desmond’s black head glistened in the morning sun as he settled on her glove.
“Desmond, my love, let’s see what else the King of Heaven has in store for us today.” The pair continued the trot to the grassy glen.
Lists, lists, things to do, people to look out for, children to lead, mouths to feed. Louisa’s head slowly began to clear of all of these things as she concentrated on the moment at hand. She and Desmond made their way over to a fallen tree, and dismounted into a patch of fragrant greenery.
“Aha! Wild mint! The ladies and old men will thank me for this remedy.” She smiled inwardly. Louisa had no desire for more childbearing, but the younger women looked to her for guidance, and wild mint soothed female problems of all sorts. Good for the stomachs of cranky old men, too. She began to gather.
Desmond sidestepped up to her shoulder, and clung to her dreadlocks with one brightly colored claw. He was large for a male, most hunters of his breed were smaller than the females.But Desmond was nearly as large as his female counterpart.
The hissing was upon them almost before Louisa knew it. A whoosh, a sudden chill in the air, and a violent churning around them. Desmond squawked and flapped, both claws digging into Louisa’s scarred neck. She dropped to the ground instinctually. She cast her arms into the air, in a ‘Fly’ gesture that Desmond usually responded to. They rolled on the ground together, Desmond narrowly taking wing before Louisa accidentally crushed him.
What in the name of the King of Heaven was going on? Louisa rolled onto her back and looked skyward. An enormous black bird, the likes of which she had never seen, was pursuing her falcon. Desmond was an excellent climber and flew higher, higher to get away from his pursuer. The foreign bird was black with an enormous wingspan, so black that he looked like a moving hole in the sky, a tear in the fabric of the beautiful blue sky day.
Louisa bounded to her feet, frantic. What to do? She reached into her boot and withdrew her favorite dagger and turned to throw. A quick judgement told her that they were too far away, so she rummaged in her saddle bags for a throwing star. Quickly, she pulled out two of the deadly rounded pieces of metal and sent them into the air. One of them missed the black bird narrowly, and the other disappeared, as if swallowed into nothingness.
Suddenly another voice started speaking nearby. Louisa couldn’t understand the words, but somehow she felt as though she should know them. Familiar, somehow.
A powerful male voice uttered the words sotto voce, over and over. Louisa kept her eyes on the birds, it was easy to lose a falcon.
“Rex caeli! Rex caeli! Indulgentia! Auferte malum! Auferte malum! The voice took on a pleading note. The birds drew closer, suddenly another, larger falcon came to the aid of Desmond. First one, then another, then a third. They swarmed the black bird, streaking, diving, clawing. Desmond folded his wings and made a straight dive to the earth, pulling up at the last possible moment, and winged his way to Louisa. She heaved a sigh, and turned toward the voice.
“What did you say? What happened?” she demanded. She looked in the sky again, the three beautiful falcons had disappeared, and the huge black bird was a spot in the distance.
The owner of the voice was a graying, muscular man with an erect bearing. He stood his ground, and looked at Louisa straight on, undeterred by her battle scarred face.
“King of heaven, show mercy. Banish the evil one. ” He turned away, and walked toward his own mount, tethered not far away.
“Wait!” Louisa whispered. The Evil one?
“Wait!” Her voice rose. “Are you a servant of the Most High too?” Her voice rose again.
The man turned. A peregrine of identical size landed and settled on his own glove.
“Yes. I am. They call me Hawk.”
Tough Mudder, as many of you know, is a ten to twelve mile obstacle course with things like sheer climbing walls, ice pits, and barbed wire obstacles to get through. You work as an individual, and as a team, and when you are done, you have bragging rights to one of the best races in the country. (Next to Spartan, Aroo!)
My good friend Bird Martin (everyonehasastory.me) recently wrote a column ruminating about why she and her siblings had such rocky relationships. It’s a good one, and a textbook examination of attachment disorder, for you prospective parents and PsyD candidates.
It got me to thinking about something I saw on my mother in law’s apartment when we went to visit her last month. Those of you who have been with me for a while, know that that relationship is tentative at best. I don’t hate her for the abuse she allowed in her home, I don’t have the energy to keep that up. Also, if I claim to be a Christian, harboring hatred in my heart is clearly off limits.
We were over there for a visit, and prominently displayed was a picture of several people wearing T-shirts with my late husband’s face and birthday prominently displayed. It was my in-laws, every single one of them, adult cousins included, on a Tough Mudder team to raise money for colon cancer, the disease that killed my husband Chris.
Hmm. Well, that’s instructive. And news to me. This clearly went under the category of “A Big Family Deal.” Pictures, fundraising, lots of people included, except, of course, Chris’s family.
Over the years that we have known each other, Chris’s brother and sister rarely disguised their disdain for his life choices. Headmaster of a Christian school? Phht. Board member for an organization for sexually abused men? Shhhh! Speaker to police academies and other helping organizations for the weak and victimized? No “atta-boys” from them, ostensibly the closest of his relatives.
Not, actually, that any of that mattered a whit to Chris. As he went on his healing journey, his family’s opinion of it didn’t mean a thing. It was a bumpy journey, accentuated by alcoholic, disinterested siblings. Chris fought the good fight not to avoid being pulled back into any self-destructive behavior.
What really made a mark though, was none of them getting to his funeral. I still ponder that. I think of my own son, what it would take to get me to miss his funeral. Or my own brother or sister. I can’t imagine. I mean, even on death’s door, you’d see me getting wheeled in on a gurney to say goodbye to these precious people. His entire family of origin fled, leaving us at our most vulnerable. Not a single family member made it to see Chris off. Not one. Even his adopted sister, who he was closest too, made a point to catch a plane home the day he died. I’m still staggered by this, four years later. My children heard that as a clear message of hatred, one that I battle to this day.
I mull over what Bird said in her article, “A Message to My Brothers and Sisters.” Bird and her brother Michael had three half brothers and sisters in their childhood. Their household was an abusive one, like Chris’s. Yet Bird manages to survive this thing with the diamond like certainty that there is something better. She was loved well once, by her dad who was forced to leave. This shaped the essential bedrock of her character.
Chris didn’t have anything like that. No one dealt with the childhood monster under the bed, which was Dad. So I looked at that picture, gazed at his brother.
Yet another slap in the face to me and my kids. Chris’s family, his family of choice, his wife, his three biological kids and cherished adopted one, didn’t mean a thing to them. His family of origin huddled, inbred, silent, continuing their pattern of hateful exclusion.
Well, of course. What could I expect? I’m an early childhood expert, and these two had pretty terrifying ones. In the book of Matthew, Jesus tells an audience of occupied Jews to love their enemies. To go the extra mile. To feed your enemies, to give them a drink of water. These enemies that Jesus was talking about were pretty spectacular. Romans were cruel to their conquered people groups-their forms of torture and execution were exquisitely awful. It makes my hard heart look pretty silly.
Sigh. So here I am again, frustrated at my own lack of Christlikeness. Sure, thirty years branded the religious nut gives me a great excuse. Them being mean to my kids gives me an even better one, truly. No one would blame me for being the Really Tough Bitch in this situation, and man, that is such a comfortable place to live.
But I think it’s time to go now. Really Tough Bitches don’t have a whole lot of room for healing, love, laughter and hilarity. I’ve got a whole lot of that these days, and Really Tough Bitch doesn’t get to edge it out.
Perhaps, maybe even Really Tough Bitch might someday leave completely, and leave room for other family members to come in.
Much love to you all,
Twenty seven years ago today, I :
*Was very young. 23 seems a lot younger now than it did then.
*Was twelve pounds lighter and had great knees! It’s amazing the noise they make now.
*Decided that life with Chris Lierheimer was better than life without him.
*Thought that all an abused man needed was the Holy Spirit and the love of a good woman. (There’s a book about naivete in there somewhere. )
*Was lighthearted. Thought PTSD was a designer disease for slacker soldiers.
*Thought a lot less than I do now. Pretty much accepted what my conservative Baptist upbringing gave me, word for word.
*Thought about ‘terminal’ in terms of trains and airports.
*Was exceedingly self-absorbed. The world was my oyster, and I was going to make a difference.
*Had no idea what an ‘intact family’ was. Didn’t everyone have one? What’s up with making a special name for what’s normal?
Now, twenty seven years later, on this day, I:
* Am 50. That seems so substantial. My peers are busy getting their minds blown about teetering on the brink of old age, and I don’t have time for that. As far as I’m concerned, 50 is High Noon, so let’s get busy!
*Weigh in at around a buck forty instead of a buck thirty. Guess what? I’m never going to stand on a pointe shoe again, and good for the 23 year old Victoria who could. My body has mothered four children, seen a good man to his grave, held the hands of dying men and women, and kissed my own mother goodbye. I’m delighted with this ‘car’ God gave me to drive around while I’m here, in spite of the fact I have to take in for repairs more often. I can swim, run around, hike, ballroom dance, turn the heads of the middle aged man set, (and a few women) -In short, this body rocks.
*Still think that life with Chris Lierheimer was better with him, than without him. It would be now. I’m sitting on the porch of our lovely little family cottage in Upstate New York, watching the herons and loons go by. Having kids is great to share these things with, but having him would be better.
* Realize that paternal abuse is about one of the most heinous things someone can do to a child. Chris needed years of therapy before marriage, and certainly before children. Had his mother addressed this instead of denying it, many of our bumps would have been diminished.
*Carry a lot more weight around. Chris’s death was the most traumatic event I have ever endured, and the fallout from PTSD lasts. More on that later.
*Realize the kind of Baptist upbringing that I had was a genuine mixed bag. The youth leader was a charismatic high school teacher who actually believed that Catholics likely weren’t Christians because they worshipped saints. All the ‘cool’ kids went to youth group, and chubby stutterers like me were relegated to the outskirts. On the other hand, we hand a constant, steady stream of solid grounding in the Scripture, and for that I am grateful.
*Shudder less at the word ‘terminal’. My good friend Clare Flourish (clareflourish.wordpress.com) unwittingly gave me a piece of life-changing wisdom a few columns ago. We were trading experiences about seeing our fathers age, and in her case, die. She told me that she had, rather than a sense of ‘a life lost’, ‘a life completed’, at the loss of her dad. I believe that we were created not to die, but to live with God and enjoy Him forever. Clare’s words gave me a vision of my dad finishing the work he was to do, and getting off at his terminal. He’s going to be with his father, and his Heavenly father. This is a good thing. Thank you, Clare Flourish.
*Am a great deal less self-absorbed. Thank God. Had I no children, no husband, no divorced, agnostic, Jewish, Buddhist, doubting, gay, transexual, young, elderly or otherwise different friends, I’d be a crashing boor. I shudder at the thought.
*Mourn the loss of my intact family. There is simply no getting around that. My dear friend Bird Martin (everyonehasastory.me) once observed “ …wouldn’t we want our loved ones to keep a little token of us in their hearts should the roles have been reversed?…Chris will have left behind a little legacy in that you will be little more empathetic for others who are going through the same thing. Don’t fight it in those sad moments when you think of him. Embrace the fact that he deserved to have someone grieve for him here on earth.”
I find this to be true. And as I said a few days ago, some pain demands to be felt. But my family is not intact and I wonder where the fractures will end. God is the Great Physician, to be sure, but we do not know His plans.
Even so, life is good. On this, my twenty-seventh anniversary, my children and I raise a glass of peach wine to that marriage day long ago. Happy anniversary, Chris Lierheimer.
A funny thing happened to me on the way to the movies the other night, my girls wanted to see The Fault In Our Stars. John Green is the author of the book by the same name, and he’s a very young, liberal, hysterically funny author and blogger. My daughters have latched on to him as the Most Current Hip Thing, and I get it. He’s also a spot on storyteller with the sucky reality of cancer, and I wonder about the point of it.
Anyone with a pulse realizes that TFIOS is blazing box office numbers right now, and I just can’t figure it out. It’s grossed over 50 million bucks on a twelve million dollar tab to make, which is a pretty impressive return on studio investment.
The thing is, people, why pay to see what is all around you? I told my girls they could see it. I knew I would probably have objections to it, so I read the book before making any censorship decisions. (Note for those with ears to hear, always know what you are talking about before you insist your kids don’t see/buy/listen to something. )
So I read TFIOS, and bawled like a little girl. (Zero spoiler alert here, by the way. It’s a cancer movie, so of course important characters are going to croak, OK?) John Green wrote the book as an attempt to help people understand that cancer patients are not somehow “other” than the rest of us mortals, and that even young ones can have rich, full lives. To that, I tip my hat. The legions of friends that surrounded us when Chris was dying never gave me that ‘vibe’, he was treated with as much humanity as he ever was.
But how is it we are not awake to this? Why do we need to pay to be jarred into tears? As the movie progressed, I found myself watching my fellow movie-goers. Predictably, tissues came out during the more heartwrenching scenes. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort are completely adorable as the star crossed lovers, and when one of them dies, it brought the ladies next to me to full-blown sobs. Huh?
On July 18th, it will have been four years since I lost my own Chris to cancer. For about the first two of those years, just about everything brought me to tears. I was a raw, walking radar for other people’s pain. I didn’t have to look to closely, sometimes I didn’t have to look at all, to find something worthy of tears. Divorce? Illness? Cruelty? Aging, ignored elders? Neglected children? Hunger in America, of all places? Wounding thoughtlessness to loved ones? New friends have even opened my eyes to how we mistreat other life forms- I never knew that elephants had family structures a lot like ours, for example, and grieve for years when their babies are shot for sport.
It seems to me that we are experiencing what I find to be kind of a disturbing trend. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I might call it ‘social media isolation’. It’s hard to hold someone’s hand when it’s wrapped around a screen, or typing on a keyboard. Texting interrupts everything, and the need to record everything for Facebook is everywhere. It’s ironic to me when we pay to see mind-boggling natural events on a big screen, and don’t strap on our hiking boots and go for a walk. And there is something deeply dismaying to me to see men and women weeping at a truly touching story, and leave those tears in a wadded up tissue at the theater door.
So what to do with all that energy? I find that simply showing up does a lot for me. Get to a church, friends. Go to a woman’s shelter. Go to an animal sanctuary. Walk into a hospice and offer to mop the floor or make coffee. Go to an inner city AA meeting. Show up and let your heart be broken by reality. It’s much more satisfying than a movie.
Hmm. Well, that one certainly got my attention. Most of you know that my three older kids are in college now, and they all come back with things that constantly startle and amaze. My older daughter is blossoming into quite a feminist, and is walking a line between frothing rabidness and downright insightfulness. (It’s actually pretty funny, she’s self aware enough to call herself trite. )
Still, I listen to her like I did over lunch today, and can’t quite believe what I hear. We discussed this issue today. The quote titling my column today came from a two year old column by one Jared Wilson, a blogger for an organization called “The Gospel Coalition.” Mr. Wilson wrote a column for the Coalition entitled “The Polluted Waters of 50 Shades of Grey.” (He has since taken the column down.) In it, he quotes another author -Doug Wilson, who wrote in his book Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man:
“Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.
When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.”
Now just sit with me for a second. I have trouble getting over my revulsion about the words ‘conquers, colonizes and plants.’ Much less the violating implications of ‘surrenders and accepts.’
Rachel Held Evans, an Egalitarian Christian blogger, barely restrains her wrath from these men. I’ll excerpt what she said shortly.
Apparently, there are labels to be had here. The Gospel Coalition types, as I understand them, call themselves “complementarians.” That seems to mean that they accept Americanized-(italics mine) gender roles as God ordained. Men are in authority over all things, women are to submit.
Egalitarians seem to reject this, and accept roles with more liberality. As far as sex is concerned, it kind of boggles my mind that this is even a debate. Here is what Rachel Held Evans had to say: (rachelheldevans.com/blog/gospel-coalition-douglas-wilson-sex)
According to this post, sex is just another avenue through which a man must exert his authority over woman. As with everything else, the man is the boss and the woman is the subordinate. Wilson contrasts this “God-ordained” relationship of authority and submission to that of an “egalitarian pleasure party,” which I can only assume refers to a sexual relationship characterized by mutual pleasure, mutual authority, mutual submission, and mutual respect—which sounds a lot more desirable to me than being conquered and colonized.
Now, Ms. Evans continues with lengthly reference to Song of Songs, the first chapter, where she describes the Shulamite woman as going out, finding her husband, and initiating the joy of sex with a willing partner. In First Corinthians 7:3-4 the Apostle Paul also teaches about the mutuality of the marriage bed.
I don’t label myself as anything but Scriptural, but I find myself landing with Ms. Evans on this one. How on earth is there anything but mutuality in the marriage bed, as taught in Scripture? Gracious.
Really, to me, I don’t care for any of this theological bickering, only inasmuch as it applies to the people I love. I must say, though, I am concerned. As my children fly out of the nest, they float through a lot of this relational nonsense. Fortunately for me, I was raised in a household that valued ‘hiding God’s word in my heart’ and not much else. It helped a lot when I met Chris, who had been blown about by all sorts of feel good teaching. None of that helped heal the hole in his heart from an abusive family dynamic. Only leaning on the eternal, unchangeable, healing of God’s spirit set him free.
My prayer for my children, as for you, is that we continue to find solid, baggage-free, Scriptural teaching that is not viewed through the lens of the culture or fad of the day. That we continue to dig through the treasure of Scripture and find out what God has to say about matters of the heart, rather than have someone do our thinking for us.
Biblegateway.com is a great place to start. I have great faith in your ability to think, Visitors, and Biblegateway has a great parallel feature where you can look up what you are interested in, find several versions of scripture, and start asking yourself the important questions. Then go to your pastor, or write me even, and let’s figure some of this stuff out together.
Love to you all,
(Note, Jared Wilson has since apologized for the content of his 2012 column.hegospelcoalition.org/blogs/gospeldrivenchurch/2012/07/20/some-reflections-just-one-explanation-and-apologies/)
Doug Wilson stands firm.
Hi gang, it’s nice to see you again. I recently made contact with my friend Bird Martin at http://everyonehasastory.me/ Bird has a heroine role in my life. When I first started blogging after my husband Chris died of colon cancer, Bird Martin was the very first person who made any comment at all on my columns.
It was a revelation. I wasn’t just talking to myself? Egads. Someone else might actually listen, and perhaps, even, BENEFIT from what I had to say? It couldn’t be so.
But it was. Bird and I developed a rollicking friendship, culminating with a visit to Colorado. Over the past year though, life has intruded, and we had fallen out of touch. I determined (or “Purposed” in Christianspeak) to catch up on her blog, and am backtracking. (Bird, dear, I am on October 2013)
Our lives have run parallel courses, and I am wondering how many of you are walking the same road. My dad has been sick too, Bird. Last fall, he fell in his house, and wasn’t discovered for nearly a day. Up to this point, he had refused daily care, accepting only the three hour daily visit from the local Visiting Angels helping agency. My brother and I check on him daily, of course, but his fall happened after all of those ‘safety checks’ took place. Of course.
So, we went through the tiresome process of rehab, where these sparkling new hospitals treated my father like a number, and we eventually found him a place a mere three miles from our homes, which he seems to enjoy. His intellectual abilities are slowly fading, and he needs more and more care.
It’s difficult to ‘mother’ my dad. Once again I’ve gotten some pretty solid advice from people who sit around and think about this stuff for a living. I’m told as much time as I can give him, I ‘ll be glad I did later. Those of you who’ve been with me for a while, know that at the beginning of victoriasvisits, I wrote a lot about being constantly pelted by death for about 18 months. First Chris, then my dear friend Mickey, then Emily Berkeley, Tom Seedroff, and many others. It got old.
Being around Dad sometimes has that effect. That makes me terrible, I realize. Playing cards with Dad at his new place, and wondering, “Hmm, this could be the last time I play cards with Dad.” How morbid is that? Dad is aiming for three digits, which is cool. I think it would be hilarious to have a centenarian in the family. But I keep on remembering Mom. January 7th, 2010, she gave my daughter a birthday card, told her she looked gorgeous and wished her a happy birthday. That night she blew out an artery in her brain the size of a pencil and was gone in eight minutes.
What to do, though? Not hang around Dad because he could drop at any second? Hell’s bells, he coined that one. “Kids, I have one foot in the grave already, so be aware!” Got it, Dad.
Nope, not an option. I muster up the strength, drive over there, play cards, eat cake, and drop off Engstroms Toffee beside his bed. (He forgets I bring it to him, so his care provider and I joke that he must think the Candy Fairy comes from time to time.)
In the mean time, get a load of this bunch.
Chris and I used to joke that we’d be poor in our dotage, but we’d have a great bunch of little powderhounds. It’s true! The bigger kids all had spring break at the same time, so they came back from their various colleges and we took off to Vail for a few days.
Chris and I were a great parenting team. Boy, do I wish he were around for this one. See, we believed very much in the power of habits, and repeated activities simply being normal. So, we committed that each kid would get ten years of concentrated ski instruction. (Nothing too intense, Copper has an 8 week program we did for years, then extra family days, of course)
The point being, that when they were done with that, each kid could ski anything on the mountain. Then, when they start to scatter and live their lives, as they are beginning to do, the thought process would go something like this:
“Hmm, what to do with my two weeks paid this year? Huh, a few days in Colorado skiing with the sibs? Sure! Sounds like a blast!” Mothering these kids through this and various other transitions to adulthood takes a lot of intentionality.
Planning to see my increasingly childlike dad is also quite a trip. But right now? I think I’m good with it.
What do you folks think? Sign in below if you’re a sandwich mom or dad, let’s hear your stories.
A line of random digits appeared across my Caller ID. I’m always suspicious of that kind of thing, I’m amazed that Apple hasn’t figured out how to conquer phone spam yet.
Chris started identifying himself by his name about a year before he was diagnosed. Sounded more professional than ‘Hello’, he thought. Frankly, I thought it was just a more intimidating way to answer the phone, and I liked it.
“Hi Mom!” There was a slight pause, “It’s Faith! I’m using E-‘s phone! He can get reception in Kenya and I can’t!”
Good Heavens! The Luddite in me is still astonished that communication can take place halfway around the world through this slim little metal box in my hand. One of my babies was calling my phone, maintaining that family connection that has grown as slender as a spider silk, these days.
Those of you who have been with me for a while know that Faith and Christopher were rear-ended by a careless driver coming home from my mother’s funeral, January, 2012. (For details, the essay here is “The Surprising Adventures of Single Motherhood”) Faith broke her wrist, and Christopher sustained a minor concussion.
The other driver was fine. As “Death By Infuriated Mother” is not acceptable punishment for such carelessness, I had to settle for a personal injury attorney. He netted all accident-related bills paid for, of course, and a small cash settlement for both children.
For Faith, this settlement proved to be pivotal in her growth. We had long talks about what ‘pain and suffering’ actually mean in an award like this, and it was a great opportunity for self-awareness.
How would this cash help alleviate the ‘pain and suffering’ brought on by this accident? What would a bigger bank balance actually do for the pain of suffering an injury on the day of her beloved grandmother’s internment?
Well, it’s a matter of the heart, really. Faith’s heart, along with those of the rest of my children, had been crushed by the death of their father, a mere 18 months earlier. Then, Nana passed, another blow. What would serve to help lift Faith out of this accident-aggravated depression?
Enter Uhuru Child.
Uhuru means ‘freedom’ in Swahili, and it’s an effort by Brad Brown and his wife Annie Johnson to figure out sustainable solutions to enormous poverty problems in Kenya.
These kids are exploding with the desire to bring some sort of the life of Jesus Christ to people mired in some staggering poverty.
Faith, at 19, is on the cusp of figuring out what direction she wants her life to go. All of my children are fairly other-centered, thank God, and every one of them have some pretty interesting unselfish stories to tell.
But Faith is the one who’s inner well-being seems to depend on this type of thing. She decided that this is where she would like to spend her money. She decided this in March, and has researched, worked and learned about the goals over there for months. It was a remarkable thing to watch. This goal really has done a lot to alleviate her ‘pain and suffering’, and breathe some life into her developing adulthood.
Uhuru child has a major goal of sustainability. Western charitable projects in countries like Kenya develop an unhealthy dependence on the flow of money from their donors. When that flow dries up, so do the projects.
Uhuru child has a goal of developing jobs and schools that can maintain themselves. Click on this thing to see something you don’t see in America. This is awesome.
Faith has been working on lettuce farm for a week. With U-child’s inital startup, this is a functioning, self-sustaining business, that will be there long after the Westerners go home.
Faith will be there for another week. My child’s heart is changing, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch.
Much love to you, Visitors.
Addenda: Recently I’ve taken more care with studying faces. Here a couple for you!
Hello gentle readers, how good to see you again!
I’m sitting at a National Novel Writing Month event. It’s a gathering of purple haired, overweight, Whovian,Trekkies, pierced, inked and costumed people who have one thing in common; we all want to write a novel.
NANOWRIMO is a non profit out of Berkely, California, and is formerly known as the Office of Letters and Light. Over five hundred thousand aspiring novelists will join this crazed effort during the month of November. (nanowrimo.org) This is the fifth time for Faith, my nineteen year old, and also the fifth time for Rachael, who will be sixteen in December.
Nano is actually one of a long list of things that gives me hope for the future. It seems as though my role in life is evolving more into that of an observer, and I’m not sure I like what I see. Passive consumption of media is now the norm of most people in my circles. More and more eyes are fastened to some sort of screen, more hands are full of electronics. Fewer solid interpersonal connections are made these days, with so much electronic distraction.
I’ve noticed that with these two things comes a lack of engagement in the world. Nano is a wonderful antidote to that. If I had to guess, I would say that no one sitting around me has the equipment appear to be successful. Not a cleft jaw in sight, no tiny waistlines on any of these women. A youthful costumed flapper is sitting next to an authentically clad Starfleet admiral who is tapping earnestly away next to a middle aged Girl Scout. I would venture to say that most Nano participants are happier beside a crowd, rather than in the middle of it.
This event began at ten pm, Halloween night. I got here past eleven, and the festivities were in full swing. No one knew each other from real life, and it didn’t matter a whit. Everyone is united with purpose, we are all going to be the Next Big Thing in the writing world.
No matter that our collective attention span is diminishing, no matter that most Americans prefer the image to the written word, no matter that actual book sales have been declining for years. Everyone sitting here believes in the power of the story, and that, my friends, is the beauty of it all.
So off we go! Victoria is writing again, and I look forward to seeing you all in the middle of it.
Funny, in the midst of great blessings, how easy it is to slip into melancholy. Springtime is finally here in Colorado, the meadows are green, and nothing is burning.
Coloradans, do you remember the date of the first fire last year? March 26! One of my staff members had the fire advance to within half a mile of her home, and several clients had their life’s possessions reduced to dust. Thank God we seem to be retreating from that today.
Since then, life has been on a wonderful upward track. Learning to be single has been a remarkable struggle, but I have made some lasting friends in spite of the pitfalls and setbacks.
My counselor has been a great help, especially during the issues with fledgling children. It’s funny, people generalize and judge with the ease of a fingersnap. I’ve been an active parent since my children were laid in my arms, it’s a wonderful occupation.
When issues come up, like Abi leaving for Georgia in the fall, I get “Oh! You must be so saaaad! She’s moving so far away!”
Actually, I am sad. But not for that reason at all. I’m thrilled that Abi has matured enough to consider making such a gigantic move. She belonged at SCAD last year, truly. What makes me sad, is that I can’t walk next door, barge in, holler “MOM!” and word-dump all of this wonderful news into a person who would be genuinely glad to see me.
She’d squint across the table,stand up in her walker, offer me food, tell me to make her some tea in her uniquely crabby way, and command me to tell her all about it. An hour would go by, and she say something like “I’m so proud of that kid. You and Chris really raised her well. “
I’d give her a hug, and bounce out of the house, back to work. I miss my mom.
Visitors, many of you have taken the time to be gracious to me and tell me of your own experiences with your mothers. Unfortunately, not all have been good. And for that, my heart goes out to you.
Most of you though, have mothers who have done the best they could, and you’re grateful. T.L., thanks for sharing with me about losing your mom to ovarian cancer. A big, strapping man like you crying like a baby in the john makes me feel less isolated. You’re the best.
B. H., thank YOU for telling me about losing your mom when you were twenty. You’ve missed her for more than thirty years, yet your beautiful smile and lovely family reassure me that things will be OK.
K.L.? Thanks for sharing YOUR mom. She reminds me so much of mine, it’s a comfort every time I visit. Do you know last time when I left Eastman, she waved, smiled and said ‘Arrivederci’? ‘Until we meet again,” indeed!
A.R., thank YOU for tearing up with me every time we talk about moms. Seven years yours has been gone, but you’ve thrived, and grown as a woman of God.
Thank you, Visitors. To walk into the lonely night alone is a terrible thing. I greatly appreciate your company in these, the dark nights of the soul.
May I give you a piece of gentle advice? If you can, make peace with your mother. If you are at peace? Thank God, and think about the wonderful things you have. Skype, a card, a phone call, a chance to sit on the couch and chat. I’m thankful I had all those things for as long as I did.
Arrivederci, my friends, and bon soir.